The most shocking moments in wrestling history (40-21)

It’s time for this week’s thrilling installment of shocking wrestling moments.

(Trigger warning: extreme misogyny, domestic violence, abuse, racism, transphobia)

40. Trish Stratus barks like a dog (March 5, 2001)

One of the most skin crawling promos in WWF history. The week beforehand, Trish Stratus was betrayed by Vince McMahon and she was looking to get back into his good graces. Vince had Stratus do several demeaning things to show how sorry she was, making her bark like a dog and eventually strip. It was like something out of Blue Velvet. This promo had an impact no one saw coming at the time. When Linda McMahon was running for office, this was one of the clips her opponents used against her (it was the second most popular clip, the most popular being Linda herself kicking Jim Ross in the junk). It was honestly kind of annoying since the mainstream press, the ones that love to laugh at wrestling fans for thinking it’s “real” (we know it’s pre-determined, fuckos), were acting like this was a legitimate attack on Stratus and not something they all agreed to (Stratus has been open about thinking the promo was great). Also, why were they trotting this out and not Katie Vick?

39. Shawn Michaels turns on Marty Jannetty (January 11, 1992)

One of the most iconic tag team break-ups in wrestling history. There had been visible friction between The Rockers, Shawn Michaels and Marty Jannetty, and it exploded on the set of The Barber Shop (Brutus Beefcake’s shitty Piper’s Pit knock-off). Beefcake asked the two if there was a problem between them. Michaels tried to play it down but Jannetty admitted that there was friction. It led to a tense segment that looked to end with the two making up and staying friends. Instead, a startled Jannetty leapt through a window to avoid Michaels. As Beefcake was checking on Jannetty, Michaels swarmily said “Is there a problem with the Rockers? I don’t think so!” It was a great moment that, nonetheless, had massive negative consequences for the future of tag teams in WWF/WWE. It seemingly became standard practice for all future tag teams to eventually be broken up and made to feud with each other. The only major tag team to escape this are the Usos (reportedly because creative can’t tell them apart, which I can sadly believe).

38. The death of Mitsuharu Misawa (June 13, 2009)

Fans at the Hiroshima Green Arena thought they were in for a treat when they sat down to watch legendary Japanese wrestler Mitsuharu Misawa take part in a tag team match. Instead, they witnessed one of the greatest nightmares that can occur in the squared circle. Around 27 minutes into the match, Misawa took a back suplex from Saito. It was a basic one, Saito didn’t do anything wrong, but it left Misawa motionless. CPR was attempted and the defibrillators were tried but they were unsuccessful. He was taken to the hospital but it was no use. He was pronounced dead later that night. He was 46. Misawa was one of the greatest wrestlers to ever exist but it was clear to basically everyone in the business that he should have retired years ago. Hardcore wrestling fans are always concerned when an older wrestler tries to come back and Misawa’s death made those concerns even greater.

37. The Mike Levy incident (June 21, 2008)

In the seedy world of hardcore wrestling, few figures are as loathed as Ian Rotten (a man who lives up to his last name). The absolute nadir of Rotten’s antics was the match between Mickie Knuckles and Mike Levy, quite possibly the most reprehensible wrestling match ever (which is really saying something). Knuckles was a trained death match wrestler, someone who knows how to hurt people. Levy was an autistic wrestling fan who was thrown in as a joke. If this sounds like a gross match, just wait. It somehow gets worse. Because he wasn’t trained properly, Levy accidentally gave Knuckles a welt on the head, which was concerning since she and Rotten had a TNA try out in the near future (why they booked her in a death match is a mystery). After the match was over, Rotten decided to show Levy where his place was. What followed next can only be described as attempted murder. Rotten and several other wrestlers came out and beat the ever loving shit out of Levy. They gave him multiple full force kicks and stomped his head into a ladder multiple times. Rotten even got his young son to come out and hit Levy with a kendo stick. All the while, the audience was cheering on the assault. Mickie Knuckles later broke her femur, which derailed her and Rotten’s dream of getting on TNA. Karma is real.

36. Stone Cold Steve Austin arrested for domestic violence (August 13, 2002)

Stone Cold Steve Austin was (and still is, for better or worse) an icon but his legacy was tarnished when he was arrested for domestic violence. Austin pleaded no contest to the charges of abusing his wife Debra Marshall. Marshall later revealed that Vince was well aware of what Austin was doing but tried to get her to not tell anyone because it would be bad for business. Not the first time Vince would do something like this and not the last either.

35. Melanie Pillman is interviewed on Raw a day after Brian Pillman’s death (October 6, 1997)

The wrestling world was shocked when Brian Pillman passed away on October 5th, 1997. A day later, Vince interviewed Brian’s widow Melanie. To the disgust of everyone watching, it quickly became apparent that Vince was using the interview as a way to dodge any responsibility WWF might have played in Brian’s death. Vince had promised Melanie ahead of time that he wouldn’t bring up Brian’s drug use. In the interview, he mentions it incredibly quickly. This interview was awarded the Wrestling Observer Award for Most Disgusting Promotional Tactic, beating out the Montreal Screwjob. Even with all the infamy that’s followed the Screwjob in the decades since, the interview’s win was more than deserved.

34. Shane Douglas tells the NWA to kiss his ass and ECW is born (August 27, 1994)

It is 1994 and the fledgling Eastern Championship Wrestling is having issues with the National Wrestling Alliance and are planning to secede. Paul Heyman and Tod Gordon came up with an idea that would burn their bridges with the NWA and give them a massive burst of hype. Shane Douglas won a major tournament to be crowned the NWA World Heavyweight Champion. Douglas, who also hated working with the NWA, then threw down the belt and called the NWA a dead organization. He then hoisted up the ECW belt and called it the only real title left in wrestling. It pissed off the NWA traditionalists and got the newly rechristened Extreme Championship Wrestling a major publicity bump. ECW would go on to become probably the best North American wrestling promotion and it all started with this promo.

33. Buck Zumhofe convicted of sex crimes (March 5, 2014)

One of the slimiest people in an industry of slimy people, wrestler and super-creep Buck Zumhofe finally got what was coming to him when he was arrested for the abuse of multiple minors, including his own daughter. After being found guilty on all charges, Zumhofe attempted to escape but was quickly tackled by security. Zumhofe didn’t have an especially important career but he had some notable firsts. He was the first person Triple H faced in the WWF and he was the first person The Undertaker ever put in a body bag. I hope the next time I hear about him is when he’s put in a body bag for real.

32. The Brawl for All (Jun 29, 1998)

The Brawl for All is one of those ideas that sounds interesting at first glance but is hopelessly dumb when you think about it. Vince Russo wanted to give fans “real” fighting (and also to get Bradshaw knocked out), so he devised a boxing tournament featuring wrestlers. Fans probably knew something was up when they noticed that none of the big stars in WWF like The Rock, Stone Cold Steve Austin, or Triple H were involved. Vince and the rest of the backstage people were planning on Dr. Death Steve Williams to win and eventually have him feud with Austin. They allegedly gave Williams the prize money ahead of time. However, the perils of shoot fighting reared their head when Williams was knocked out in the quarter-finals by Bart Gunn. Gunn went on to win the tournament, knocking out Bradshaw in the finals. You would think that they’d have Gunn feud with Austin after winning but, instead, they had professional boxer Butterbean come in and demolish Gunn. He was fired before he got back to the locker room. A bunch of careers were derailed, wrestlers were injured, and the fights themselves sucked. Just a sickening waste.

31. Ric Flair appears at a WWF show with a WCW belt (September 9, 1991)

There’s a lot of dumb wrestling promoters out there but Jim Herd might have been the absolute dumbest of them all. He wanted to change up Ric Flair’s gimmick and appearance, wanting to shave his head and rename him Spartacus (Kevin Sullivan sarcastically added that they should go to Yankee Stadium and change Mickey Mantle’s number after hearing that). Herd then had Flair fired for breach of contract, despite Flair being the champion at the time. Flair had paid for the belt to be made and WCW never paid him back for it. So, Flair decided to have some fun. He showed up at a taping of WWF’s Prime Time Wrestling show with the WCW belt and challenged Hulk Hogan to a match. (Funny side-note: because Flair legally owned the belt, WCW had to make a belt quick for their 1991 Great American Bash. Dusty Rhodes lent them one of his belts and they just put a metal plate with “WCW World Heavyweight Champion” written on it. Also, fans were chanting “We Want Flair!” during the whole event.)

30. Brock Lesnar breaks the streak (April 6, 2014)

One of the most endearing WWE traditions was The Undertaker’s decades-long undefeated streak at WrestleMania. But all good things have to come to an end and the streak was finally ended at WrestleMania XXX by Brock Lesnar. The only people who knew the ending ahead of time were Lesnar, The Undertaker, Vince, Triple H, and the referee. Fans genuinely could not believe what they were watching, with super fan Ellis Mbeh’s stunned face becoming an overnight meme. Paul Heyman gave a blistering promo the next night about how his client Lesnar broke the streak and sent The Undertaker to the hospital (he left out the part where Lesnar and him visited him to make sure he was OK). In the weeks afterwards, fans were pissed at Lesnar but that thankfully died down when it came out that The Undertaker had wanted Lesnar to be the one to end his streak.

29. The Fabulous Moolah double crosses Wendy Richter (November 25, 1985)

Wendi Richter didn’t think anything was out of the ordinary when she faced The Spider in a title fight. Towards the end of the match however, The Spider broke from the plan and pinned Richter. Despite kicking out at one, the referee counted Richter out and The Spider got Richter’s belt. Richter couldn’t understand what was happening until she unmasked The Spider and realized that it was The Fabulous Moolah. Moolah, more than anyone except for possibly Vince, is the reason why women’s wrestling was such a shitshow in the late 20th century. She was on top for so long she didn’t want to give it up. She hated that one of her protegees was champion, so she cooked up a scheme with Vince to double cross Richter. Richter never appeared in the WWF again, only returning in 2010 after they became WWE.

28. Jake Roberts at Heroes of Wrestling (October 10, 1999)

Heroes of Wrestling is one of the worst wrestling PPVs of all time. One of the low points was Jake Roberts’ appearance. Fans knew he had a drug and drinking problem but they didn’t realize how bad things were until this show. Roberts was at the ring with his trademark snake. He then put the snake between his legs and made it look like he was jacking off. He eventually collapsed in the ring. Fans were heartbroken to see a beloved icon this low. Thankfully, Roberts has gotten clean and is at peace after a nightmarish childhood.

27. Collision in Korea (April 28, 1995)

WWE wasn’t the first wrestling promotion to do business with a despotic regime. In 1995, WCW and NJPW had a collaborative event… in North Korea. The trip was a disaster, multiple national incidents nearly occurred. Eric Bischoff caused a stir just by going jogging. Scott Norton nearly got arrested for badmouthing the country while talking to his wife. The North Korean government wanted Ric Flair to read a speech saying that North Korea could defeat the United States in a war. Leaflets featuring a bloody Ric Flair were dropped by the North Korean government over Seoul a few months afterwards. The PPV has never been rebroadcast after WCW was bought by the WWF. Not because of ethical reasons but because more people showed up for this event than any WWF/WWE event. Granted the people who showed up for CiK would have been shot if they didn’t show up but it still stings for Vince.

26. WWE’s Saudi Arabia deal (November 2, 2018)

Fans were wary when it was announced that WWE had signed a 10 year, 20 show deal with Saudi Arabia. That wariness became outright hostility when journalist Jamal Khashoggi was murdered, almost certainly on the orders of the Saudi Arabian royal family. It wasn’t just the fans; John Cena and Daniel Bryan outright refused to appear at the Crown Jewel event. Sami Zayn was banned from competing due to being Syrian and Roman Reigns had to drop out after his leukemia returned. None of the women wrestlers were allowed to appear either. In an act of warped accidental mercy, the event was absolute trash, so the fans that refused on moral grounds weren’t missing anything.

25. Sputnik Monroe helps get wrestling shows desegregated in the south

The last few entries were infuriating, let’s talk about a positive moment. Sputnik Monroe is one of the saints of wrestling. While driving to a show in 1957, Monroe got tired and let the black hitchhiker he picked up drive for a bit. He invited the hitchhiker to the show and received a torrent of abuse from the audience. This inspired Monroe. He would go to black neighborhoods and invite everyone he could find there to his matches. Despite being a heel, he became beloved by black wrestling fans for this. He eventually got so popular, that he was able to play his trump card: he refused to wrestle for any show that had a segregated audience. This caused arenas all over the south to desegregate their shows, lest they lose out on one of the titans at the time. Sputnik Monroe was a great wrestler and an even greater man.

24. D-Generation X appear in blackface (July 6, 1998)

Yeah, I’m not posting blackface.

A lot of the faux-edginess of the Attitude Era has aged poorly (Remember the angle where Al Snow’s dog was killed and fed to him?) but I must confess that I still find D-Generation X’s antics back in the ’90s funny… most of the time. One of D-Generation X’s favorite tactics in feuds was to dress up like their opponents to mock them. Regrettably, one of those feuds was with The Nation of Domination, a stable with mostly black members. It’s pretty terrible on its own but then X-Pac tragically went the whole nine yards with his Mark Henry impersonation. Surprisingly, behind the scenes the members of the Nation were alright with this, even Henry, and is probably why this angle hasn’t gotten the members cancelled.

23. David Schultz slaps John Stossel (December 28, 1984)

A decade before Brian Pillman broke out, David Schultz was the best loose cannon in wrestling. However, he massively crossed the line when John Stossel confronted him. The Libertarian dipshit was doing an expose on wrestling and interviewing Schultz. When Stossel told Schultz that he thought wrestling was fake, he responded by slapping Stossel twice. This may surprise some readers but Vince was the one who told him to do this. Stossel sued the WWF and Schultz was fired, though more so for trying to fight Mr. T a few months later. Schultz’s career was never the same and is a bounty hunter now.

22. Sexy Star shoots on Rosemary (August 26, 2017)

One of the most disrespectful things a wrestler can do is to shoot on an opponent and few crossed that line as severely as disgraced luchadora Sexy Star. She was in a match with American wrestler Rosemary and worked her over savagely. Sexy Star had Rosemary in an armbar and cranked it, causing Rosemary’s arm to pop out of the socket. Reportedly, Sexy Star was angry with fellow wrestler Lady Shani but lost out on the chance to get her revenge and took out her frustration on poor Rosemary. The incident caused widespread condemnation, with Road Dogg and Cody Rhodes refusing to appear in any promotion that had her. For her part, Sexy Star is unrepentant, saying that Rosemary was exaggerating her injuries. The best that can be said for Sexy Star is that she isn’t the worst luchadora…

21. Juana Barraza arrested for murdering 16 elderly women (January 25, 2006)

Juana Barraza, known as The Lady of Silence in the ring, was a moderately popular luchadora when she was arrested for murdering over a dozen elderly women. Barraza had a nightmarish childhood with an abusive mother and reportedly saw the elderly women she murdered as her mother. The case got further controversy thanks to the Mexican police seriously dropping the ball. They had eyewitness reports of a woman leaving the crime scenes but couldn’t fathom a woman killer… so they assumed that the killer was a transvestite. While Barraza’s body count rose, the Mexican police were hassling innocent transvestites. Although convicted of killing 16 elderly women, it’s believed that she may have killed over 40.

Next week: a whole bunch of depressing shit